Hardware merchants are growing uneasy with the reported production problems at Carib Cement Company, fearing a repeat of last year when construction was shut down islandwide resulting in millions of dollars in losses.
"We want to be assured that anything similar to the events of 2006 are not recurring at this time," said Errol Salkey, president of the Hardware Merchants Association (HMA).
He said members of his association were calling on the Caribbean Cement Company to explain to the public the reasons for any reduction of cement supply in the marketplace and meet with players in the industry to discuss ways of mitigating any problems that could arise from the current situation.
"We don’t want to wait until there is a problem and then we hear about it when we want cement," said Salkey.
However, when contacted by the Business Observer yesterday, Anthony Haynes, managing director of Carib Cement, gave his assurance that all was OK at the Rockfort plant.
"We have no hiccups now, everything is running smooth," he said.
At least one major supplier, Hardware and Lumber, said there was indeed a reduction in cement supplies recently, but it was not critical.
" I know since the passage of the hurricane production has been less than normal, but it’s not a cause for alarm," said purchasing manager Dawn Harrisingh.
Last Tuesday, according to industry reports, contractors and suppliers were unable to receive cement from Carib Cement’s Rockfort Plant leaving widespread uncertainties about adequate supplies to the market.
Michael Archer, president of the Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica (IMAJ), believes the effects of any short-term delay in supplies from Carib Cement should be minimal as there should be adequate cement stocks to last a month.
"Based on the inventory there should not be a problem. There should be at least a month’s inventory throughout the system, including imports," said Archer.
"Up until June there was healthy inventory in keeping with what we had requested," the Masterbuilders president said.
After last year’s episode when substandard cement was sold to the market by Carib Cement resulting in a recall that led to months of inactivity in construction, industry players and government instituted measures to keep stock levels throughout the system.
At the insistence of the industry, Government in February relaxed a 40 per cent anti-dumping tariff that was imposed in 2003 on the importation of cement from outside of Caricom to protect Carib Cement’s monopoly.
In May, a complete waiver of the Common External Tariff (CET) was instituted to further encourage imports of cement.
Today, Carib Cement will brief the public at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on the current supply of cement in Jamaica.